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Kyk noord…

February 14, 2019

Will 2019 hold more promise for South African transporters than years gone by?

May 2019 is the month on the minds of South African citizens – as this is when the long-awaited national elections are expected to take place.

Having been thrown into the deep end at the most desperate of 11th hours, President Cyril Ramaphosa seemed to have spent 2018 doing what he could to stabilise the country with one hand effectively tied behind his back by internal party politics.

By the time the second quarter came around, the spirit of Ramaphoria had dissipated and the South African economy continued to stutter along for the rest of the year.

The latest indicators reveal that the third quarter ended with gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 2,2 percent – by all accounts it seems the fourth-quarter results will be similarly positive.

It’s interesting to note that among the key drivers of this economic growth were the manufacturing and transportation sectors (mining, construction and utilities all declined significantly, though).

FOCUS economics correspondent, Sam Rolland of Econometrix, knows much more about this sort of thing than I do and so I’ll leave the detailed analysis and predictions to him – you can find his 2018/2019 report on page 4.

However, it has to be said that with the performance of the GDP and freight transport looking up, one can only hope that this is a sign of things to come for the transport, logistics and all related industries.

There can be no denying that the sector – much like the rest of the country – is hungry for growth to shout about. It has been for a long time…

It’s hungry for good news, too. The industry, whether freight or passenger focused; whether operated locally or cross-border; and whether were talking about small operations run by passionate, hands-on individuals or larger, multinational operations, has been beset by years of complex challenges.

In some cases, decades-old proposed legislation still hangs in the air as other ludicrous debates rage wild (the high-cube container conundrum, anyone?). Operators and their drivers continue to face unsafe behaviour by their fellow truckers as well as intense competition (sometime violent, as the passenger-transport industry knows) and unscrupulous officials.

Head to the borders and one faces an altogether more frustrating time. Southern African border posts seem to be crumbling under the weight of not only increased traffic, but also crooked and apathetic officials, governments that milk the industry for all its worth and thugs who prey on defenceless drivers as they wait gridlocked for days on end to continue their journey.

I wish I could say that, with the promise of a renewed government and the hope of sustained levels of economic growth, South African transport operators have a lot to look forward to in the coming year. Maybe, with any luck, they will.

Until then, I’ve no doubt the industry will continue to do what it’s proved to do best (other than move goods and people): “Kyk noord en vok voort”.

My life has always revolved around anything with wheels and an engine. It doesn’t matter if its an old banger, the latest hot-hatch or a fancy 4×4 – any excuse is a good excuse to take it for a cruise, spank it at the track or go bundu-bashing (the mud-and-rocks-side-of-a-mountain type, not the exploring-Joburg’s-pavements type). Otherwise, chances are you’ll find me lying underneath one of my beloved toys or with my head buried in its engine bay, tinkering away.

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